To the Executive Director Media Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan To Mr. Ahmed Ismailov
Dear Mr. Ismailov,
After the creation of the Media Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijana (MDA) on January 12, 2021, it became known that closed discussions are underway on the draft law on media which is meant to replace the Law on Mass Media (MM). I regret to emphasize once again that there are closed debates over the draft law in a narrow circle although the draft law affects interests of not only journalists but much broader circle of interests of the state, society and the mass communication media (MCM). I intentionally use the term MCM. It is broader than the concept of mass media, since it covers not only the circle of persons engaged in professional information activity but the whole society, every individual, because for 15 years we have joined the stage of the information society in terms of Internet development which has created opportunities for feedback of unprecedented efficiency and total accessibility.
Given the repressive nature of our government (please do not confuse it with the concept of the state. The government controls the state) I already questioned the fact that the MDA has been set up to strengthen freedom of speech and institute independent media. As for the media, freedom of speech and free information society, the authorities are pursuing a negative policy. All this time the entire policy of the government has been aimed at suppressing freedom of speech and limiting the media independence, free information initiatives, because it has never been capable of public polemics with society on certain issues of the life of the state. Such a polemic, if any, ended with violence of the authorities against their opponents. This is clearly apparent n the media content, not to mention various studies of local and international level, the international status of Azerbaijan as a non-free country. My personal studies into mass media has demonstrated the impossibility of developing full-fledged, self-sufficient, independent media in Azerbaijan. No one has denied these studies, since they are based on state statistics.
Pursuing its goal-oriented policy, the government has destroyed the institution of print mass media , so no one can find any reasonable excuse for this. Television channels have ceased to affect the audience due to the fact that, at the behest of the same government, their professional approach proved to be biased, one-sided, not pluralistic. The same fate befalls on online media that began to emerge since the 21st century, because they also fall under the control of the authorities. In recent years, the government's strategy has been aimed at limiting the information initiative of individuals and establishing total control over freedom of thought even outside the media field.
The most tragic thing is that the authorities are trying to restrict the sphere of information which is a platform for manifestation of creative freedom of the individual. Creativity is not possible without freedom. The authorities have done their utmost to remove freedoms of creativity and personality. Watching the activities of your agency, I am once again convinced (at the dawn of the agency's creation, I questioned the fact that it would work for the benefit of information society of Azerbaijan) that it is a modernized version of the bankrupt State Support Fund for Media Development (the head is behind bars, and the main ideologist is under investigation).
The hidden work on the new Law is illustrative that the government is not minded to support the creative needs of society but to limit them, as it has done traditionally. Under present-day conditions of the rapid development of the information society where all individuals of society, including officials themselves, are producers and consumers, the refusal to publicly discuss the Law directed to regulating relations between all members of the information society, forming the information cloud of the Azerbaijani state, ensuring its interaction and integration with the world information system, is a short-sighted and moreover criminal policy, for the results of limited discussions will be a limited society and the state.
It is necessary to realize that the catalyst for the development of the information society is the need of individuals in receiving truthful information, exchanging information, producing information or realizing the freedom of expression. And this need is gaining strength in terms of a new generation which I call cyborgs. The telephone as a technical means and the constant production and exchange of information is a part of the ego of the new generation. I,m afraid that your draft law is aimed at limiting this irreversible process. We hear about some uniform journalistic certificates. What are their goals in an environment where traditional media are losing their importance, and everyone, from children to the president of the country, are becoming producers of information and content. How are you going to regulate their need for self-expression. Does this mean that only the holders of the certificate will have the right to produce information? Does this mean that you will decide who is to produce or not to produce information? And there are quite a few such questions.
Taking into account the above, I urge you to publish the draft law on media and organize broad public discussions in the interests of the development of information community of Azerbaijan. Freedom of speech and expression cannot be an exclusive prerogative of the Media Development Agency of Azerbaijan.
Mehman Aliyev, Director of Turan News Agency
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